The Shack

23 Jun

Two weeks ago I had lunch with my faculty advisor and a few other friends. I went in empty-handed and left with a tupperware container of some special Middle Eastern dish and two new books. Lytton is well known for supporting my mild addiction to reading. I was intrigued to find out that the first of the two books I dug into, The Shack by William P. Young, had gotten rather mixed reviews. A few people I have loads of respect for including Tim Keller (ex-InterVarsity staff) have simply asked people not to read it. That advice only made me more interested in having a taste.

The story in a nutshell is of a guy named Mack who had lost a daughter to an abductor during a family camping trip. He receives a letter from God in his mailbox (still waiting for mine) inviting him back up to the scene of the crime. Of course he goes, who wouldn’t. And the majority of the book details his weekend spent with God in three persons at the shack. The Father is a large black woman, Jesus is a Middle Eastern guy, and the Holy Spirit is a small Asian woman. 

I won’t spoil the story for those who read it. There is some questionable theology running through the book to the point that I probably wouldn’t recommend it to young Christians. For those that are deeply grounded in their beliefs, especially those from the Reformed camp, it’s a pretty decent little read. There were a few sentences that rubbed me the wrong way (I hear some people through the book across the room) but overall offered some interesting observations about God and also about mankind. 

One point made in the book that stuck with me is that sin is enough punishment by itself. I can already see some counter-arguments but there is a neat truth there. Sin by definition is not simple sexual wrongdoing or anything else of that persuasion; it’s actually choosing to look for ultimate satisfaction anywhere outside of God. Clearly inappropriate sexual activity would fall into that category but so could the incredible Christian appetite for coffee or perhaps even my pursuit of books. Certainly sex, coffee, and good books are gifts from God; these gifts can simply be misused or enjoyed without giving credit where credit is due in a way that can corrupt the enjoyment of them. 

Culture tends to think that sin is usually something fun and so this argument that it is enough punishment by itself seems confusing at first glance. The reality is that whenever we do choose sin over God, we’re missing out on God and thus losing out on the best stuff of life. Sounds like a losing game to me. Why then do I keep messing with it I wonder?

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7 Responses to “The Shack”

  1. Robin @ Heart of Wisdom June 23, 2008 at 8:00 pm #

    Thank for the review. I wrote one on my blog.

  2. Steve June 23, 2008 at 9:40 pm #

    Might it have been a sin for you to read that book?

  3. Steve June 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm #

    Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to be an accusation. Just thinking about where your post went and then about the many trusted sources that have told me not to read the book. I guess I would say that I have no interest in reading the book, and that I have a sense that I would find it a sin to read it. Anyway, hope that explains my question.

  4. Shane June 24, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    Just to make sure I understand you – You would find it a sin to read it because people you trust have told you not to? Like you were disobeying them? Or like you were being tempted by the book to believe questionable things about God? Or do you mean that you expect reading the book would draw you away from Christ in some way?

    Not feeling accused:)

  5. Steve June 24, 2008 at 9:00 am #

    Not that I would be disobeying other people by reading it, but that it might infect me with unbiblical ideas, so I guess that I might be tempted to believe those ideas and therefore that it would be unhealthy for my relationship with Christ. I guess I would analogize it to watching a movie that, while it might have some redeeming portions, also has some parts that I might consider blasphemous or inappropriate.

  6. Beth July 6, 2008 at 2:23 pm #

    I find that interesting because I had a few people I really respect recommend it… an elder from my church for one. I did find the theology a bit interesting. But the relationship aspect was interesting and I felt opened my heart to God in a new way. That and the obvious factor of it dealing with the concept of why “bad things” happen.

  7. Marshall Benbow July 21, 2008 at 11:05 pm #

    Welcome back to the blogging world, Shane. Should I be worried that The Shack author will be speaking at my church in a couple of weeks? 🙂

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